Croutons and wood stoves

I got home late last night, so R was on his own for dinner. Although I'd like to say we are progressive couple, the truth is, our household duties are divided rather traditionally. He's the hunter, I am the gatherer. Which means I never lift anything heavy or fiddle with the plumbing, and he has no idea where we keep the baking powder.  There are some exceptions: he is masterful with the vacuum cleaner, and I enjoy mowing the lawn. And he makes a mean omelet. But otherwise, we more or less follow the June and Ward Cleaver model of domestic duty division.

Chopping wood to heat the house this winter
So perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised to learn that in my absence, he fumbled a bit in the pursuit of dinner.  When I arrived home at 8:30 and asked what he'd eaten, his confession was alarming:
"Croutons."

me: "You ate croutons for dinner? Just croutons?"

R: "Yes. They're tasty."

Good grief. I found this so depressing. Croutons are condiments, not entrees! When left to his own devices, croutons become a meal.

I started thinking about all the ways in which men and women exist differently in their habitats.  My blood simmered a bit. Is it really up to me to feed this man every day?  When was the last time he emptied the dishwasher? Are those muddy boot tracks I see on the kitchen floor? What is this empty coffee mug doing out on the counter? Woe is me, Cinderella!

Installing the woodstove (be careful!!)
After pouting silently a bit, I rejoined my beloved in front of our brand new wood stove, which he worked so hard to install on his (rare) weekend off. He and some generous, burly helpers hauled the cast iron stove, which literally weighs hundreds of pounds, into the house. After spending several hours finessing the stove pipe connection (including two trips to the hardware store),  R climbed up onto the roof to ensure the chimney was properly vented.  I watched from below.

I took a long look at the stove. The fire was roaring, thanks to the dried logs he spent two days splitting outside in cold, drizzly weather.  He'd thrown an extra log on in anticipation of my arrival, knowing I'd be chilled coming in from the November night.
A roaring fire in our brand new Jotul woodstove
He hadn't taken the time to make himself dinner, but he'd made an extra effort to create a cozy living room atmosphere so when I arrived, we'd be able to nestle in a bit and share the stories of our day.  I often take for granted the fact that he's so eager to chat with me, an uncommon trait among these hunter-types. He's always interested in hearing about what I've done during the hours we've been apart, and knows just what to say when I am grumpy or upset.

That's when I realized I can be a real jerk sometimes.

I defrosted some lasagna, and presented the steaming plate to him as penance for my internal diatribe. Thank goodness I had the presence of mind to at least keep my mouth shut.

"Thanks honey," he said graciously as he wolfed down the lasagna. "You know, you didn't have to do that."

And then I realized the true difference between the two of us when it comes to this sort of thing. He was happy with the croutons. He's doesn't think  it's my job to make him dinner.  I do.

I realized I'd be embarrassed if my college friends knew this about me. I've always thought of myself as an independent gal!  When did I become Suzy Homemaker?! Somehow, the fact that I live in the wilderness exacerbates my concern over the issue. If I were still charging hard up the corporate ladder, would I still find the truth so troubling? Probably not. But this very unfeminist fact remains: I can't rest until I know my hard working man has had a hot meal.

In some crazy way, I know this is because I love him so much. And I know how much he loves me back.

Every relationship works differently. And I guess the important part is not how it works or why it works, but just that it works.

Maybe June and Ward were on to something. Or maybe they weren't. All that matters is, this is what's working for us right now.

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